Frequently Asked Questions for DUI Booklet

Q:  I was drunk when I got pulled over, is there any point in fighting these DUI charges.

A:  Absolutely you should fight.  A DUI conviction will be on your record permanently.  Just because you were drunk or there may strong evidence showing guilt, doesn’t mean that the investigation was conducted properly, the equipment was working properly or the prosecution will be able to proceed against you.  Fighting the charges is your only way of keeping your record clean and avoiding the minimum mandatory penalties associated with DUI. 

Q:  Is there any difference between DUI and DWI?

A:  DUI stands for driving under the influence and comes from the language used in Florida criminal statutes.  DWI stands for driving while intoxicated and is the standard language used in other states and jurisdictions throughout the country. 

Q:  Is it true that Florida has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country?

A:  It is true.  Florida requires for a first time conviction for DUI a mandatory adjudication of guilt.  A formal adjudication of guilt means the conviction goes on your permanent record and cannot be removed or expunged.  Many other jurisdictions allow for a withholding of adjudication on a first conviction because a withhold of adjudication is not a formal conviction and may be sealed or expunged if certain requirements are met.  Florida law also requires that a person convicted of DUI complete 6 months of probation, attend and complete a DUI school, victim impact panel, do 50 community service hours, pay a $250.00 fine, requires a 10 day impoundment of vehicle, and other conditions may be imposed.  All of this in addition to a license suspension.  

Q:  How long is your license suspended after being arrested for a DUI?

A:  If you are arrested for DUI and you provide an unlawful breath or urine alcohol level, a person’s license is suspended for 6 months for a first offense for DUI.  You may apply for hardship reinstatement after 30 days of license suspension.  If you are arrested for DUI and you refuse to provide a breath or urine sample, your license is suspended for 1 year and you may apply for a business or educational hardship license after 90 days of suspension. 

Q:  What is a hardship license? 

A:  Realizing the many parts of Florida have poor public transportation and the difficulties DUI law imposes on good, hardworking people, the Florida legislature allows for a person arrested for DUI to apply for hardship reinstatement of their license for business or educational purposes after certain designated period of time.  As stated above 30 days for driving with an unlawful breath alcohol level or 90 days for refusing to submit to approved breath or urine testing.  All of this comes into play if you are unsuccessful at a formal review hearing wherein your attorney can challenge the State’s case and fight to get your license back. 

Q:  Is there any way to challenge the DUI arrest and keep my license altogether?

A:  One of the benefits of hiring an attorney to represent you, is they can request a formal review hearing on your behalf.  At the formal review hearing, your attorney can challenge the evidence put forth against you, can subpoena witnesses on your behalf.  If you win that review hearing, you get your license back. 

Q:  How many days do I have to hire an attorney to do the formal review hearing for me?

A:  According to Florida law, if the formal review hearing is not requested within 10 days of arrest, the right is waived and your license will remain suspended.

Q:  If I win the formal review hearing, does the criminal case go away too?

A:  Unfortunately, no.  There are two separate parts to a DUI prosecution.  The first is the administrative part which is conducted by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  The administrative review happens very early on in the case and only pertains to the license suspension.  So even if you are successful at the administrative hearing and get your license back, those results have no binding affect on the criminal prosecution. 

Q:  I blew above the legal limit, do I have a chance of beating these charges?

A:  Yes.  Just because you blew above the legal limit doesn’t mean that the intoxilyzer was maintained, utilized or functioning properly.  Furthermore, mistakes in the police investigation leading up to the administration of the breath test may have been illegal.  Finally, at trial the prosecution may be unable to proceed against you. 

Q:  If the police ask me if I was drinking what should I say? 

A:  First and foremost, you have a constitutional right against self incrimination.  This means you should not talk to the police when they are investigating you for anything.  If you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI and they ask you if you were drinking you should say, “I’m sorry officer, but I want to speak with my lawyer.” Do not think the police are your friends.  The police are in the business of making arrests.  Police department funding is derived in part from the number of arrests made: DUI arrests are some of the most common and therefore the most profitable arrests police make.  To think the police are your friends in this situation is a mistake.  Anything you say will be written down and the police will seek to use it against you in a court of law.

Q: What are roadside exercises?

A:  Roadside exercises are basically non-scientific balancing tests.  These tests are utilized by the police officers to justify an arrest for DUI.  The observations made by police can be entered into evidence against you at trial.  Examples of such tests are:

  1. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
  2. The Walk and Turn Test
  3. The Romberg Balance Test
  4. The Finger to Nose Test
  5. The One Leg Stand

Q:  If the police ask me to perform roadside exercises do I have to do them?

A:  You do not have to perform roadside exercises.  The police officer can request that you perform the exercises and tell you that failure to perform the exercises could result in your license suspension, but they cannot make you do them. 

Q:  If the police ask me to provide a breath sample or urine sample do I have to provide one?

A:  Under Florida Law the police cannot make you provide a breath or a urine sample.  You have a right to refuse, but the refusal comes with consequences.  The Florida law enforcement community realized that when a person refuses to provide a breath or urine sample it makes it more difficult to prosecute a person for DUI because there is no direct evidence of intoxication.  Therefore, they made the license suspension for a refusal 1 year and only 6 months for driving with an a breath alcohol level above a .08. 

Q:  What is the most amount of time a person can serve in jail for a first DUI?

A:  Assuming there is no serious bodily injury to another person, the most amount of time you can spend in jail for a first DUI is 1 year.  A DUI with property damage is punishable by 1 year.  A first DUI with no property damage is punishable by 6 months in jail. 

©2009 The Criminal Law Group
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